New York World

031306 article nyworld New York WorldDon’t Be Failin’ to Launch, Now

Hey, y’all. I’m not too bad with the old word processor-ino, so I thought I’d toss a couple lines of hello to you. Say it with me, people: McConaughey in the hou-shizzle!

I’ll be in this little comedy romantique opposite excellent New Yawk girl Sarah Parker. It’s a piece o’ celluloid hilarity the studio is sendin’ out into the world under the moniker Failure to Launch. Now listen to me here. I ain’t sayin’ it’s The Philadelphia Story or The Story of O. Just sayin’ it’s a good little goof of a time to be havin’ at your local ’plex in the company of somebody who rubs ya the right way. Which is up and down, not side to side. Studio was supposed to get this bad boy out to you people Feb. 10, in time for a little holiday name of St. Valentine’s Day, of which I am a major fan—oh, yeah, I bring Penelope the flowers, the whole deal—but there was what we call a little bit of a “shake-up” over at Paramount, which entailed one bunch of corporate a-holes bein’ replaced with a whole ’nother bunch of corporate a-holes and, well, this little picture show we put together for y’all’s gonna be coming your way sometime in March. March 10, I think, but I’d have to check with my producers about that. I ain’t so hot on dates and whatnot. I just show up on the set and tear that baby up. Just the kind of badass I am.

I done hung out a shingle few years back. Call my company j.k. livin’, and, yeah, friends, that’s lower-case lettering there. I wouldn’t be the type of hang-loose dude that I am if I went around usin’ capital letters all the damned day long. Sometimes you just got to kick back—hell, sometimes? You’ve got to kick back all the time, and if you ain’t, maybe you need to check yer priority-inos.

You know what j.k. livin’ means, don’t you? Sarah didn’t. “Just keep livin’.” Sort of my mot-to. Oh, yeah, I got a mot-to. Looky here, a fella who ain’t too proud to play bongos butt-nekkid in the middle of the night ain’t too proud to have a mot-to. And when I’m hangin’ extra loose, I just shorten that bad boy to “j.k. livin’.” Can’t even be bothered to say “just keep.” Too much work for the kisser—which enjoys moister pursuits, if you know what I’m sayin’, and I’m thinkin’ the ladies out there do. I ain’t shy about bein’ a hero. Bring that bad boy on! I’ll kiss it. Hell, I’ll lick it! About 300 times. That bad boy is like a Tootsie Pop. You don’t want to mess up the prize at the center by bitin’ it!

We filmed part of Failure to Launch in the Big Easy. Look, we woulda done it Katrina or no Katrina. I don’t want to say I insisted on it to help along the economy of the most “j.k.l.” metropolis on God’s good earth, but maybe I did. It was pretty damned heroic, when you think about it. Jessica was like, “My hair! My hair!” The humidity, you know. She’s a good chick, though. Classy as hell. We got along excellent.

In the movie I play a slacker like I did in Dazed and Confused, but I got the charm goin’ like I did in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Contact. Hell, it ain’t every dude who’s bedded down Jodie Foster. I’m a charming M.F. My character’s name is Tripp—yeah, two p’s. You think I’m gonna play a dude name of Mike or Bill? Or Bob? Homey don’t play that.

Look, y’all. I ain’t puttin’ the hard sell on ya. It’s just that we got a damned entertaining motion picture here, and we’re just askin’ ya to put them sweet fannies in those movie-house seats. Ladies, if you go to the show with some fella you like, go ahead and enjoy his company, by all means, ’specially if he’s treatin’ you right. But I wouldn’t exactly mind it if you spared a little ol’ minute to think of your ol’ celluloid buddy, Matthew M. Because, Lord knows, I’ll be thinkin’ of me, too.

—Matthew McConaughey

Adopting? Take a Long Weekend!

Many women in New York City who have spent the better part of their fertile years delaying vacations, dinner reservations and other romantic opportunities to bolster their careers and their companies’ profiles are finding, now that their eggs have taken early retirement, that they won’t get much of a maternity leave if they choose to adopt rather than have biological children.

The nonprofit organization Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (yes, that’s the Wendy’s guy) praises companies who offer paid leave and other benefits to adoptive parents. But the measly one-to-two-week duration of these leaves is in stark contrast to the six to eight weeks afforded women who have kids the old-fashioned way.

“I was stupid enough to think it was illegal to discriminate against people for adopting,” said Michelle (not her real name), in her 40’s, a former senior staff member at Interpublic. She was stunned when she was offered only one week of parental leave to travel to Texas with her husband to pick up the newborn girl they were adopting. “I didn’t know if I would get the same amount as biological mothers,” she said. “But I figured that not only was it a company with a lot of women at the top, but also, being in advertising, there’s usually a more modern mind-set.”

Michelle opted to take three months of unpaid leave, as guaranteed to her under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which ensures that any employee can take up to three months of unpaid leave for a variety of family-related reasons.

“At first they were very supportive,” Michelle said of the company, “but when it came time, and I was matched up with a birth mother and given a date, that’s when they were really discouraging. They kept saying, ‘Are you sure you want to take this leave, because you’re not going to be paid. All 12 weeks?’ I’m convinced they wouldn’t say that to me if I were a birth mother. The woman in H.R. also kept saying, ‘If you were delivering vaginally, it would be such and such.’ I was like, ‘I get it—I’m adopting.’” (Interpublic’s human-resources department didn’t return calls for comment.)

As editor of Modern Bride’s regional magazines at Condé Nast, Lisa Milbrand received a week of paid leave when she and her husband, who works in finance, decided to adopt a girl from China last year.

“We looked into it a month in advance, so we sort of knew,” Ms. Milbrand said. After eight months of waiting for the paperwork to go through, the couple spent two weeks picking up their new daughter, Katie. “That’s pretty much the shortest you could do,” she said. “I saved up a lot of vacation time and didn’t take vacation last year.”

Terri Constant, the former general manager of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Web site, said she was allowed to take about four weeks of accumulated annual vacation (rather than parental leave) during the adoption process of her son, Jack, from Vietnam. While traveling to get him, Ms. Constant developed pneumonia; she said she was informed by the Met that, if she wanted to use her sick days, she would need a doctor’s note. “If you’re in another country, you’re not going to make it to the doctor to get a note written in English to say, ‘By the way, she’s sick,’” Ms. Constant said. “It’s just one example of how society at large doesn’t understand what adoption is all about.

“I thought I would be able to take some of my sick leave, because everybody else had, then some annual leave, and maybe some unpaid leave,” she continued. “They basically said, ‘You’re not going to be on maternity leave—it’s paternity leave.’ They corrected me. So I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not really a mother here?’ They said the people taking maternity leave are going on sick leave. They’re considered sick because they’re giving birth. I said, ‘Wait, they’re healthy—they could give birth. I’m the one who’s infertile here!’” (While not commenting on Ms. Constant’s individual case, Elyse Topalian, chief communications officer of the museum, said in an e-mail message that “the Met has a leave-of-absence policy that covers maternity/paternity or childcare, including adoption or fostering of a child.”)

The act of not offering an equal amount of paid leave to adoptive parents as biological ones is apparently legal. “Nobody’s engaging in any kind of legal wrongdoing because they’re not giving you that leave,” said Marjorie Berman, a litigation partner at Krantz & Berman. “The reason that you’re given this leave is for people’s bodies to recover after childbirth. ‘Maternity leave’ is really a misnomer. A law went into effect in New York that states if you were going to give maternity leave, you had to give it equally to men and women. That’s when companies started moving toward the model of giving out disability leave instead.”

In other words: The six weeks of short-term disability leave afforded to biological mothers (sometimes as much as eight weeks for a Caesarian or otherwise complicated birth) is widely considered to be less about physical recovery, and more about allowing a certain amount of time for mothers to bond with their children. But this act of bonding is arguably more arduous for women trying to forge a tie with a child plucked from a Third World orphanage.

“Orphanages are a really horrible place for a young child to be,” Ms. Constant said. “Even if it’s the best orphanage in the whole world, you need time to undo some of that damage. And if you have to go back to work immediately, you’re not given the time to do that.”

To their credit, many of the companies offering these scant leaves for adoptive parents do provide modest cash bonuses toward the adoption ($2,500 from Condé Nast, $5,000 from Viacom and Interpublic). But, claims Michelle, the former Interpublic employee, “To get that money out of them, I had to send three different sets of itemized bills.

“Adoption is so much more prevalent now,” she added. “We’re professional women; we postponed having babies to have a career and then found out we couldn’t have them.”

—Daisy Carrington

He’s No Peach

A scrum of people was gathered outside of Town Hall last Thursday night before the Harper’s Magazine–sponsored forum, “Is There a Case for Impeachment?” Inside, before the forum started, chants of “Impeach Bush!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, George W. Bush has got to go!” resounded. Finally, the participants—Center for Constitutional Rights president Michael Ratner, Harper’s editor Louis Lapham, Congressman John Conyers, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holzman and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean—walked out onstage before the sold-out crowd of 1,500 to cheers.

Mr. Dean sat next to Ms. Holzman, a curious juxtaposition considering that during the final days of the Nixon administration Mr. Dean was in Ms. Holzman’s crossfire: She sat on the House Judiciary Committee, filing articles of impeachment against Mr. Dean’s boss.

Mr. Dean knew how to work the liberal crowd as only a former villain can: Adjusting his microphone before speaking, he cracked, “I learned years ago that microphones pick up my voice very easily,” alluding, of course, to Nixon’s Oval Office tapes. He got laughs.

Mr. Conyers urged audience members to contact their Representaives and demand that they sign House Resolution 635, which would establish a committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush administration with regard to the Iraq war. To date, according to Mr. Conyers, only six of New York’s 29 Representatives have supported the resolution. It’s currently stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

Then Mr. Ratner, who has defended Guantánamo Bay prisoners, outlined three possible articles for Mr. Bush’s impeachment: torture, war crimes and warrantless wiretaps.

“If there’s any hope for this republic,” he said, “you have to make this administration accountable for what it’s done.”

Questions arose regarding the media’s seeming disinterest in Mr. Bush’s malfeasance, even though some recent polls by Zogby and Ipsos Public Affairs have shown that over 50 percent of the public would support impeachment if it were proven that the President lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq, or that he violated the law by ordering illegal wiretaps.

Mr. Lapham remarked that people of all stripes believe that the constant back-and-forth between political parties is the system of checks and balances, instead of the constitutionally enshrined process of the legislature and judiciary checking the executive branch’s power grab.

Ms. Holzman expressed extreme disappointment in the media’s coverage of the White House. “People don’t understand that impeachment is a solution,” she said. “It’s a mechanism for when the President violates the law. The Constitution foresaw this and gave us a mechanism to act.”

The evening ended optimistically, with the crowd energized. “I think we should get over the idea that impeachment is a big deal,” said Mr. Lapham, noting that three of the country’s 43 Presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868; Nixon, who, while not formally impeached, resigned in 1974 to avoid it; and Bill Clinton in 1998.

“It’s a remedy,” Mr. Lapham concluded.

—Matthew Grace